From a study by Mammarella N., Fairfield B., Cornoldi C. in Aging Clin Exp Res. 2007 Oct;19(5):394-399 [online version not yet available]:
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Controversial evidence suggests that music can enhance cognitive performance. In the present study, we examined whether listening to an excerpt of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” had a positive effect on older adults’ cognitive performance in two working memory tasks. METHODS: With a repeated-measures design, older adults were presented with the forward version of the digit span and phonemic fluency in classical music, white-noise and no-music conditions. RESULTS: Classical music significantly increased working memory performance compared with the no-music condition. [emphasis added] In addition, this effect did not occur with white noise.
This is similar to a previously-posted study which found that adults who listened to Mozart had better memory for specific tasks similar to these.
There’s something about the intersection of complexity and structure that our brains respond to, whether we enjoy this music or not, and we can learn to enjoy it.